Caring for a Survivor of Stroke can be a Challenge
by Karry Morris MSN, RN-BC
MCH Cardiovascular Nurse, Cardiovascular Services
Caring for a survivor of stroke or any traumatic injury or illness can be a challenge. A stroke in a family can result in changes in relationship dynamics, increased stress, role changes and financial burden. Many caregivers feel stressed and often overwhelmed with their role as an adult caregiver. There are things that caregiver can do to better care for themselves, reduce stress and have happier lives while carrying such a responsibility.
Build a team
Build a team. Accept help from others. When others offer their help, most of the time, they really want to help. In fact, friends and family often feel helpless and feel they need to do something to help. Don’t be afraid to accept offers that are given to you for help. Assign someone a specific task, such as dinner on Tuesday or taking over for a few hours so you can have some time to yourself. Most people who truly care about you will jump at the chance to participate. They love them as much as you do and desire to feel needed and useful to you.
Rely on friends
Keep in mind, that many people do not know how to act or what to say to someone going through something like a stroke. Many stroke survivors say they learned who their friends were after their stroke. Old friends disappeared from their lives, but new ones came in … and some they had not heard from in a while came out of the woodwork. Try not to be surprised or hurt by the ones who don’t know what to do, or who can’t or won’t be there for you. You are going to make it with or without them.
Take care of yourself
Eat well and take care of yourself. Watch for changes in your mood and health and be proactive to improve it. Be realistic about your needs and take care of them. If you are not well, you are no good to your loved one. If you are sick, cranky or tired, you cannot do your best to be a caregiver. It is not selfish to take care of yourself first. Prioritize tasks, plan ahead and be prepared to reduce frustrations.
Let your survivor do what they can
Let your survivor do as much as much as they can on their own. This improves and hastens the recovery process. It’s normal to want to do everything for them, but you need them to do as much as they can on their own or they may lose the ability completely. You can enable dependence by doing too much. Give them the help they need without hesitation, but let them try and achieve things on their own. This greatly reduces the chances of suffering from depression, helps them feel useful, needed and more normal. It also helps take some of the burden off of you. Help your survivor feel like they are still an important part of the family.
Be patient with your loved one. They are often doing the best they can and they are frustrated too. Take time to communicate with each other. Even if your loved one cannot talk, they usually have a lot to say. You will learn how to communicate with each other again with a little love and patience.
Take time to regroup
It is important to have time for yourself to regroup or focus on things you like to do such as hobbies and relaxation. Keep a positive attitude and assert your feelings without anger nor being passive. Don’t let hard feeling fester; let them out. You may not be able to vent to your survivor, but it is important to find a shoulder when you need one. Spend time with family and loved ones. Always take some time for yourself to regroup and relax. Seek spiritual and medical guidance when needed.
Ask plenty of questions and learn as much as you can about the diagnosis of stroke. Learn about the type of stroke your loved one had. Understanding where strokes occur in the brain can make a big difference in dealing with physical and mental limitations. Learn the signs of stroke and how to prevent another stroke from happening.
You are not alone!
Manage stress, eat right, exercise. Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs. Seek out resources such as stroke websites, social media and live support groups so that you know you are not alone. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, talk to a loved one or your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and let your needs be known. You are not alone!
Medical Center Health System Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group meets at noon every second Saturday of the month at the MCH Center for Health & Wellness. (Hwy 191 at Faudree Road in Odessa, Texas)
Medical Center Health System Stroke Survivor and Caregiver Support Group
“Not your typical support group”